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Linda Engström

Linda Engström
Researcher in Rural Development


My overarching research interests are natural resource management and development policy in East Africa and the discrepancy between what capitalists and states seek to accomplish and what they achieve on the ground. A particular focus is on the perceived effects among smallholder farmers and pastoralists of such policies and projects.

I started as a natural scientist, became a orangutan researcher and came out on the other side as a social science PhD. With a background as development policy advisor, I am also engaged in bridging the gap between research and policy development and implementation, for instance through representing my department in the steering committée of SweDev - a network for researchers within development research promoting collaboration between researchers and development practitioners and decision makers.


I teach about my research at various courses and programmes at the department including at courses about Politics and governance, Global development, Sustainable natural resource management.


My overarching research interests are natural resource management and development policy in East Africa and the discrepancy between what capitalists and states seek to accomplish and what they achieve on the ground. A particular focus is on the perceived effects among smallholder farmers and pastoralists of such policies and projects.

My research focus includes a critical scrutiny of discourses of development, privatisation and interlinked trajectories of social differentiation and inequality, particularly land based inequality.

I am currently heading research on Land Justice, enabling long term data sets on the complex trajectores over time linked to land deal implementation in East Africa. The focus is on the politics of access and use of land following scaled back, stalled or closed agro-investments, including lenses such as inequality, redistribution, recognition and representation for various people and groups of people in rural and urban Tanzania.

In another project, we focus on the local, social impacts by tree planting projects in rural Tanzania, funded by Formas:

On a similar theme, I participated in developing an assessment guide for consumers and companies to assess tree planting projects and to what extent they can benefit local communities. The guide was launched in March 2023 and can be accessed here:

In my PhD research (defended in September 2018), I studied large-scale agricultural investment as a development strategy for rural Tanzania, a strategy promoted by Swedish and Tanzanian governments, bilateral donors and development banks alike since the early 2000's. While such investments are proposed to provide efficient use of "unused" land, employment opportunities, solutions to ancient agricultural methods and industralisation, it is being increasingly acknowledged that many projects are cancelled and bring about few of the purported benefits.


Through previous experiences from Swedish and international NGOs, and through my 9 years at Sida Helpdesk for Environment and Climate Change, collaboration between academia and practice in Swedish development cooperation has been a large part of my professional life.

Currently, I am working to brigde the gap between policy and practice through representing the department in the SweDev executive committee and as a member in the LARRI steering group (Land Rights Research Initiative). 

I have a journalist degree, and I regularly write articles and opinion pieces, blog posts and policy briefs to spread my research findings more widely.


I have a master degree in Zooecology from Uppsala University including development studies, tropical ecology and anthropology, and a journalist degree from Uppsala University.

I worked two years heading The Nature Conservancy's program on orangutan conservation thorough tropical forest research on orangutans and forestry in Kalimantan, Indonesia, in collaboration with teams from local villages.

I worked for Swedish and international NGOs on global environmental issues such as palm oil production in South East Asia and soy production in Latin America.

Before and after conducting my PhD I worked as an advisor to Sida at the Sida Helpdesk for Environment and Climate Change. Through my thesis work, I expanded my experience to include both natural and social science perspectives.


 I regularly supervise master and bachelor students at the Department.

Selected publications

Bélair, J., Engström, L., & Gagné, M. (2024). Minding ‘Productive Gaps’: An Appraisal of Non-operational Land Deals in Seven Sub-Saharan African Countries. The Journal of Development Studies, 1-17.

Engström, L., Bélair, J., & Blache, A. (2022). Formalising village land dispossession? An aggregate analysis of the combined effects of the land formalisation and land acquisition agendas in Tanzania. Land Use Policy, 120, 106255.

Engström, L. (2020). The impacts of delay: Exploring a Failed Large-scale Agro-investment in Tanzania. in "Land, Investment and Politics: Reconfiguring Eastern Africa's Pastoral Drylands", Jeremy Lind, Doris Okenwa and Ian Scoones (eds). James Currey, UK.

Engström, L. (2020). How can an agricultural investment that never happened affect people living in poverty? EBA Development Dissertation Brief 2020:01. Expert group on Aid Studies, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Stockholm, Sweden.

Engström & Hajdu (2018). Conjuring ‘Win-World’ – Resilient Development Narratives in a Large-Scale Agro-Investment in Tanzania. Journal of Development Studies.

Bluwstein, Friis-Lund, Askew, Stein, Noe, Odgaard, Maganga, Engström (2018). Between dependence and deprivation: the interlocking nature of land alienation in Tanzania. J of Agrarian Change.

Abdallah, J., Engstrom, L., Havnevik, K., Salomonsson, L (2014). A Critical Analysis of Practices and Dynamics of Large Scale Land Acquisitions in Tanzania The global land grab - Beyond the hype. Kaag and Zoomers, ZED.

Englund et al. 2011. Producing Feedstock for Biofuels: Land-Use and Local Environmental impacts - Technical report for the EU Biofuel Baseline project.  

OECD DAC Environet. 2011. Strategic Environmental Assessment and Biofuels Development.

Engström, L., 2009, Liquid Biofuel Production – Opportunities and Challenges in Developing Countries, Swedish EIA Centre SLU, Uppsala, Sweden.

Marshall, A.J., Nardiyono, Engstrom L. Pamungkas, B., Palapa, J., Meijaard, E., Stanley, S.A., 2006, The blowgun is mightier than the chainsaw in determining population density of Bornean orangutans (Pongo Pygmaeus Pygmaeus) in the forests of East Kalimantan , Biological Conservation Volume 129 Issue 4 pp 566-578.

Felton, A.M., Engstrom, L.., Felton, A., Knott, C.D, 2003, Orangutan population density, forest structure and fruit availability in hand logged and unlogged peat swamp forests in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, Biological Conservation 114: 91-101.






Researcher at the Department of Urban and Rural Development; Division of Rural Development
Telephone: +4618672641
Postal address:
Inst för stad och land, Box 7012
Visiting address: Ulls väg 27, Uppsala

Publications list: